Once described by Nobel literature prize winner Orhan Pamuk as the place for the highest echelon of Turkish society, Nişantaşı is the Turkish equivalent of New York’s Upper East Side.
One of my favorite places to eat in Istanbul is Nişantaşı – a neighborhood full of life with restaurants you can find all over the place! If you want to soak in that intellectual/artistic vibe, these Nişantaşi restaurants will change the way you see delicious food.
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The Best Restaurants in Nişantaşı:
1. Spago Istanbul by Wolfgang Puck
Award-winning Michelin star chef Wolfgang Puck made his debut in Istanbul on a rooftop with spectacular views at St. Regis Istanbul hotel. The Californian with a Turkish twist restaurant has everything from apple martinis to Turkish wines to shawls to wrap around yourself when you’re feeling cold.
The flagship here is salmon pizza, but it’d be a shame to miss the spicy duck spring roll with mango or the creamy house-made agnolotti with ricotta and mascarpone filling or the almond crusted salmon soaked in plum wine. And when you’re full, you’ll realize you’ll never look at food the same again.
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2. Hünkar Lokantası
This place is as elegant as pearl earrings. Think of it as soul food for rainy days for everyone including the vegetarian and vegans. You can fill up the table with stuffed aubergines (including a vegan version), Sultan’s Delight, or even apricot-flavored celeriac. Paired with a pomegranate juice and followed with the silky, honeyed quince dessert.
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It’s a shame that this vibrantly colorful, swanky restaurant doesn’t have many vegan options, but we think it’ll more than make up for it with the intimacy created by the dim lighting.
There are a few set menus to choose from: if an upside Caesar salad with anchovies and a caramel parfait is your thing, you’re Smart. If you want more choice, the Lux is your thing, but if your chic, you’ll start dribbling the moment you see the risotto from the sea with ink sauce, baby shrimp, and parmesan followed by smooth chocolate with a spicy pepper ice cream – just like the Mayans intended. You can even order post-menu drinks like a whiskey to enjoy the music from the live band.
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4. Turk Fatih Tutak
The woodsy beech/bamboo design creates this otherworldly vibe. The inventor-in-a-sci-fi movie vibe may come to the creativity of the menu. You can prepare yourself with a satin-smooth butter with a hint of sensual honeycomb drizzled on a slice of Turkish pide bread (plain bread). If you visit when the beetroot cultured cream with purple onion tarhana is in season, it can drive you racing mad. If it’s not in season, you’ll find your dish is created by a perfectionist who knows just how to blend different flavors together.
Even the cocktails are amazing: served on a bed of pink ice, you’ll find yourself appreciating the avant-garde approach to the typical Turkish way of cooking.
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5. Lokanta Kru
If the goddess of the harvest, Demeter, had a kid with Byron, we think you’ll find this spot would be the result. It’s not just the romantic-era vibes but the focus on healthy, seasonal food that would delight anyone’s palate. Whether you want the red, smooth yet still crunchy Ricotta cheese mixed with beetroot or the green delight that is the zesty yet avocado-smooth raw broccoli salad, you really can’t go wrong. With every bite is a touch of tradition.
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Oh. My. Gosh. If your foodie friend is hungry, the gourmet burgers at Zula will really hit the spot. The decoration is a minimalist yet artistic white, perhaps as a neutral to the colorful food.
If you’re really hungry, the B.I.G. has everything you need, from truffle mayo to jack mustard. The Taco Hong Kong combines oven-roasted duck with an exquisite hoisin sauce and Chinese bean paste.
Their homemade ketchup should marry their fries – that’s how well they go together. And we haven’t even gotten to creamy Madagascar vanilla-flavored San Sebastian Cheesecake.
7. Mahir Lokantası
Take yourself out on a date to a magical restaurant that looks upmarket but is easy on the wallet. They do have vegan options, but the mumbar dolma – i.e., the stuffed intestines – will actually turn you from a normal human being to an offal-fan like the way a mere mortal turns into a vampire.
For a vegan experience, the leeks are a colorful green and yellow dish with a unique, honeyed flavor. From breakfast to midnight, this is the place to blow your mind – and your food choices – right out of the water.
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8. Kozmonot Pub
This place looks more like your artistic friend’s house – with its murals of Pacman and kissing astronauts – than an actual pub. Perfect for the comfy, cozy vibe to catch up with friends over a boozy brunch or a late night. You can order beer from around the world, including Turkey’s own craft: Pablo/Gara Guzu range. You can also try local wines, all types of spirits, and fabulous cocktails: the Vostok I with the dark fruits mixed with minty prosecco and beefeater will blow the classic cocktails out of the water.
Your teetotaller friends can enjoy a non-alcoholic beer or handmade lemonade with their unbelievable burgers. Don’t leave without trying the bitter orange beef with grilled root veggies.
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9. Nusr-Et Steakhouse Etiler
Home of the Salt Bae chef, you’ll be surrounded by different cuts of meat. Despite the focus on the carnivores, a special shoutout has to go to the Tulum cheese salad with walnuts, aged cheese, and pomegranates. You’ve got the heart-shaped meatballs with a million different types of cheese, but it has to be said: nutmeg flavored mash with anyone one of the marvelous steaks and extra chips with that classic Heinz ketchup is another thing altogether.
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10. Palivor Çiftliği
With its pinkish awnings and a healthy dose of greens, pinks, purples from the plants they keep, the rural atmosphere really reflects the farmyard aspect of this restaurant. Oh yes, they have a farm where they produce organic items, and they bring them here to tempt locals and tourists alive with dark chocolate orange jam, aniseed fig jam, and chili pepper jam.
Once you’re done stuffing yourself with the 4-cheese pizza with the fruity, almost-sugar candy-like Avanos Vadisi rosé, you can grab yourself an awesome Christmas hamper. The chocolate souffle at Palivor Çiftliği really hits that chocoholic spot if you can’t finish your meal without a dessert.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best restaurants in Nişantaşı, Istanbul. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting this beautiful city soon, we recommend getting a taste for some traditional Turkish cuisine by joining one of our food tours and tasting the best of everything from kebabs to baklava!
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